How Nigeria’s Independence was celebrated on October 1st 1960 (With Videos)

Nigeria's Independence
Nigerians at the Tafawa Balewa Square on October 1st 1960

Joy and merriment rented the air as excited Nigerians stormed Tafawa Balewa Square, in Lagos, to partake in the long-awaited celebration of Nigeria’s independence on Saturday, 1st of October, 1960.


Among the crowds were students, civil servants, market women, traders and others. Performers (cultural dancers, masquerades, acrobats) also were standby and eager to entertain people with their performances.

Below is a video showing Nigeria’s Independence celebration on October 1st 1960​

OldNaija gathered that policemen stood in bands in different key places across the square to prevent or suppress any form of unwanted intrusion. It was indeed a wonderful sight to behold.

The celebration was not limited to the capital city of Lagos in the Western region, there were also celebrations in other regions of the country but that of Lagos was the biggest and most colourful. Nigerians who could not make it to the Tafawa Balewa Square watched the event on their black and white television sets at home.

The celebration at the Tafawa Balewa Square kicked-off with the eloquent speech of the first Prime Minister of Nigeria, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, in which he expressed his joy and happiness for the newly liberated nation and her people.

He went further by thanking the colonial masters and promising that Nigeria will remain in good terms with them. Read the full speech here.

Nigeria Independence Constitution
Jaja Wachuku, Tafawa Balewa and Princess Alexandra of Kent

The national anthem was sung and the Nigerian flag, designed by Taiwo Akinkunmi in 1959, was hoisted in replacement of the British flag. Also, Jaja Wachukwu, Nigeria’s first indigenous speaker, received Nigeria’s instrument of freedom (also called ‘Freedom Charter’) from Princess Alexandra of Kent, a member of the British royal family who represented Queen Elizabeth at the ceremony.

In the evening, the sky above the Tafawa Balewa Square came alive with a display of fireworks and shouts of happy independence. Dance troupes from different Nigerian ethnic groups displayed their dancing prowesses to the thrilled audience and acrobats awed the guests with their performances too.

A state banquet was held where dignitaries from Nigeria and other countries mingled, wined and danced. It was an unforgettable day in the history of Nigeria.

Here is another video of the Nigerian Independence celebration in 1960

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British Movietone News – A video on Nigeria’s Independence


Watch the Video of Nigeria’s Independence Day Celebration in 1978

Below is the video of Lt. General Olusegun Obasanjo, the Head of State presiding over Nigeria’s independence Day celebration, the last before the handover to civilian rule in 1979.


1978 Nigeria’s Independence Day celebration

The following text was culled from Reuters News Archive.

“For Nigerians, especially those in the modern capital city of Lagos, the eighteen years of independence have been eventful. Several coups and a civil war have not diminished their enthusiasm for the Independence Day review, essentially a military occasion.

And for the Nigerian Head of State, Lieutenant General Olusegun Obasanjo, arriving at Lagos Stadium to a welcome from his fellow members of the Supreme Military Council, it is also a historic day.

It is the last time as the council’s leader that he will review an Independence Day marchpast of the nation’s armed forces. He has decreed that elections will be held next April, with a return to the civilian rule to follow.

General Obasanjo came to power two years ago following the assassination of his predecessor, General Murtala Muhammed. General Obasanjo ended the twelve-year State of Emergency in the country last month, and he said then that Nigeria was ready for a democratically-elected government in 1979.

Observers say that the crowds, cheering as the troops dip their colours when marching past the reviewing stand, were expressing their support for the decision by General Obasanjo, who has also lifted the ban on political activity. These moves were followed almost immediately by the forming of more than seven political parties, in preparation for the elections, and the return to civilian government.

When the plans for an orderly change to civilian rule were announced, the Army Chief of Staff, Brigadier Shehu Yar’adua, said political, economic and social reforms in the previous three years had shown that Nigeria had achieved the objective of laying a solid foundation for the change.

Olusegun Obasanjo - Nigeria's Independence Day celebration
Olusegun Obasanjo

Schoolgirls with banners march past, a crash of guns ring out in salute, and the troops doff their headgear in a cheer for General Obasanjo as the review comes to a close.

As the Nigerian leader prepares to depart with the other member of the Supreme Military Council to drive through the cheering crowds in a motorcade, the Independence Day celebrations continued throughout the nation.

Under the plans for a return to civilian government, there will be an executive President and a two-house federal legislature. This announcement followed a twelve-month debate on a new Constitution.”

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